Three years ago, divers exploring the waters near the Greek island of Zakynthos found an underwater formation that they initially believed to be part of a lost city. The cobblestone-like appearance of a paved road, and doughnut-shaped circular structures that could have been parts of a colonnade, brought up ideas of an ancient lost city like Atlantis or Lemuria. After thoroughly examining the “lost city,” however, scientists have concluded that the underwater formation is actually a naturally occurring phenomenon.
According to Julian Andrews, lead researcher on a recent paper published in Marine and Petroleum Geology, the misconception that the underwater formation was, in fact, a lost city, came from tourists exploring the site and mistaking the natural geological formations for ancient ruins.
“The suggestion that they were archaeological remains was brought about by tourists who were swimming around and saw these things and thought they were stone work.”
After the claims the underwater formation was the remnant of a lost city began to surface, Greek authorities investigated the site. They didn’t find any evidence supporting the lost city claims, however. Once Greek officials finished their investigation, Andrews, with the help of Professor Michael Stamatakis from the Department of Geology and Geoenvironment at the University of Athens, launched an investigation of their own, examining the mineral content present within the underwater formation, believing that the lack of further evidence supporting a lost city meant that the formation was likely caused by other factors.
“There’s no other evidence, nothing that suggests human civilization. There’s no pottery, no coins, nothing else that usually goes along with these things.
“We investigated the site, which is between two and five meters (six and sixteen feet) underwater, and found that it is actually a natural geological occurring phenomenon.”
According to Smithsonian, when Andrews and Stamatakis analyzed the chemical makeup of the strange stone formation, they found that what looked like an ancient lost city was actually mineral deposits often found around naturally occurring sources of methane — such as decomposing organic material. As some species of microbes feed on the carbon found within the methane, they produce a mineral called dolomite, which mixes with the sediment, creating a natural cement. This process is called concretion, and was the reason for tourists mistaking the natural formation of the underwater stones for the remains of a long lost city.
Interestingly, though, the underwater formation found off the coast of the Greek island Zakynthos is a naturally occurring phenomenon and it is still rare in its own right. These formations are normally found in much deeper waters, which makes the discovery of this particular underwater formation, in such shallow waters, quite uncommon, says Andrews.
“These kinds of things in the past have been found normally reported in very deep water, thousands of meters [down]. In that respect, they’re quite common around the world. But what’s unusual about these is that they’re in very shallow water. [I]t’s a little unusual that it’s right on the coast.”
The presence of these underwater formations right off the Greek coast suggests that there is likely a partially ruptured fault just under the sea floor that is currently leaking, or at one point leaked, methane gas into the waters above.
Another interesting thing about this particular underwater formation is that, according to Andrews, it was likely formed between 2.6 and 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch, reports CNN. So, while not the lost city many had hoped for, it is still an ancient structure that allows for a window into the workings of the often mysterious ocean.
Andrews also points out that though this underwater formation is not the remnants of a long lost Greek city, he doesn’t believe that these findings will deter tourists. They are “beautiful in their own right,” he says, and also serve as a sort of coral reef for fish and other sea creatures.
[Image via University of Athens]